Hong Kong (香港 Heūng góng in Cantonese, meaning fragrant harbour) is a place with multiple personalities, as a result of being both Cantonese Chinese and under a more recent contemporary ex-British influence. Today, the former British colony is a major tourism destination for China’s increasingly affluent mainland population. It is also an important hub in East Asia with global connections to many of the world’s cities. It is a unique destination that has absorbed people and cultural influences from places as diverse as Vietnam and Vancouver and proudly proclaims itself to be Asia’s World City.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China is much more than a harbour city. The traveller weary of its crowded streets may be tempted to describe it as Hong Kongcrete. Yet, this territory with its cloudy mountains and rocky islands is mostly a rural landscape. Much of the countryside is classified as Country Park and, although 7 million people are never far away, it is possible to find pockets of wilderness that will reward the more intrepid tourist.
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate with at least one season to match your comfort zone. Boasting one of the world’s best airports, it is the ideal stopover for those who wish to travel deeper into the Orient.
While legally part of China, Hong Kong is secluded from mainland China as a dependency with a high degree of autonomy. Within the PRC, the former colony has its own constitution which lays out its own laws, separate immigration controls, financial system and is officially bi-lingual (Cantonese and English). It also enjoys western-style freedoms unheard of on the Chinese mainland. The democratic system and ideals of a free and open society are firmly rooted here.
Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport (IATA: HKG) which is also known as Chek Lap Kok 赤鱲角 (named after the small island it was built over), is the main port for visitors to Hong Kong by air. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, this modern and efficient building opened in July 1998 and has since been named “World’s Best Airport” by Skytrax in annual ratings five times.
Passengers on all arriving international flights (even to immediately take a connecting international flight) must go through an additional security “gate” check shortly after deplaning. Similar to U.S. and European personal security checks, this “gate” check will however confiscate any sharp objects regardless of size or purpose. Through-checked baggage also often receive additional scanning.
There are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every continent in the world. Most major cities in Oceania, Europe and North America are all served with at least one daily flight, and flights between Hong Kong and other major Asian cities are also frequent. Cathay Pacific operates one of the longest air routes in the world, linking Hong Kong and New York (JFK).
Pakistan International Airlines has flights from all major cities of Pakistan to and from Hong Kong. For destinations within China, it is often cheaper to fly from Shenzhen than from Hong Kong, as flights between the mainland and Hong Kong are considered to be international flights and priced accordingly. There are also flights between Hong Kong and several mid-Pacific islands and nations.
Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary airline Dragonair are Hong Kong’s main carriers, with Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express providing some welcome competition.
There are two terminals, creatively called T1 and T2. Signs on approach to the airport by car/taxi list the terminals and check-in zones. Once checked-in, you can clear security at either terminal with an underground shuttle bus outside the security area. There are more shopping opportunities before security at T2, but its shops close earlier. There are lots of shopping opportunities after security as well. Travelers will find an efficient post office in the airport, providing boxes, wrapping material, scissors and tape. It might be more economical to send your excess luggage via surface mail than paying fees to the airline. Terminal 2 is a check-in only facility, all flights depart from Terminal 1.
There is a manned left luggage facility in the arrival hall, perfect for securely storing your luggage at the airport, for around $55-$80 per day (depending on duration): it opens from 6:00AM to 1:00AM.
Overall, services at Chek Lap Kok are generally far better, or at least on par, with those at other major international airports.
The Airport Express train is the quickest and most comfortable passenger transport from the airport to central Hong Kong, also stopping at Tsing Yi and Kowloon en route. As the only rail link to the airport, it has a frequency of a train every 12 minutes and takes 24 minutes to Hong Kong station. All stations have staff to help you get heavy bags on and off of the train; there is no need to tip them. Each way costs $60-$100, and a round trip $110-$180, depending on the distance traveled. A fare saver is thus to take the Airport Express to Tsing Yi, the first stop, and change to the parallel but stopping Tung Chung underground line, which costs in total $71.8 one-way or $133.6 return as opposed to $100 one-way and $180 return.
If you buy your ticket from a machine you will have to pay the standard fare, however, if you travel with other people you can get a discount from the staff at the counter. If in doubt, ask the staff for advice before you hand over your money. After reaching your station, you can continue to your final destination by underground (MTR) or taxi.
If you wish for a leisurely scenic ride from the airport, you should consider taking a bus. There are two companies which run the airport buses to the city, Citybus (‘CityFlyer’) and Long Win. They will offer lush views of Lantau Island and traverse over the Tsing Ma Bridge, the seventh longest suspension bridge in the world.
Some of the buses are WebBus, you can use you mobile device to go on the internet.
The “A” airport buses is mostly designed for flight passengers / tourists etc and depends on where you are going they might be easier to use than the airport express, they are cheaper than airport express train (average fare HKD $40). The “E” airport buses is mostly designed for airport workers, however they do have luggage racks, they are cheaper than the “A” buses (average fare HKD $20), however they take longer because they go through various cargo terminal, and airline offices on-route.
A good option to central Hong Kong is to take bus S1 from the airport to the Tung Chung MTR station ($3.50) and change to the Tung Chung underground line for a cheaper ride to the city (Kowloon $11.4, Hong Kong $18.8). This is even cheaper than changing from the Airport Express at Tsing Yi. For a full listing of buses available at HKIA refer to the Hong Kong airport website. There is also an information board at the bus terminal.
A taxi from the airport to Central will cost you around $350 depending on your exact destination. Use a red taxi for destinations to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, Green taxis are restricted to the New Territories and blue taxis are for Lantau Island.
Theofficial taxi fare table is available online. There is a large chart at the exit to the taxi stand showing the approximate fares to most destinations. The law is strict on taxi drivers who must charge according to the meter. According to the Hong Kong Transport Department, the first two kilometers costs $20, then $1.50 for each 200 meters. When the meter fare reaches $72.5, the cost for each 200 meters will change to $1.00 The meter fare does not include the luggage fee, toll fee, waiting fee or pet fee.
Taxis from the airport to downtown Kowloon can suffer from traffic congestion. If you are going to Hong Kong Island, tell the taxi driver to use the “Western Harbour Crossing” to avoid congestion, but this will attract an additional surcharge.
From the airport there are private cars and vans operating illegally as taxis. Do not take these as they are not licensed and in case of accidents, your insurance will not cover you.
If departing Hong Kong by air, you can check-in your luggage and get boarding passes at Hong Kong and Kowloon MTR stations. They stations serve as airport satellite locations with airline staff and ticketing booths. This is convenient for people wishing to spend precious final hours in the city instead of at remote Lantau Island where the airport is located.
If you opt for these check-in services, you must first pay the fare for riding Airport Express. With some airlines, such as Cathay Pacific, you can drop off your luggage up to one day before travel, get your boarding passes, go off on that last shopping foray, and then return to ride Airport Express to complete your Hong Kong adventure.
Usually there are some sort of Airport Express discounts offers, check the MTR Airport Express website for most up-to-date discounts.
Shenzhen International Airport
Because flying from Hong Kong to the mainland is considered an international flight, flying around mainland China using Shenzhen Airport (IATA: SZX) is often significantly cheaper. Also the connections to Hong Kong are good, albeit time-consuming: first you take the underground (Shenzhen Metro) line 1 from the airport to the Luohu terminus (65 minutes, costs 8.55 yuan or $8), then pass through a long corridor and an international border gate (make sure to have your visa ready for this) and once in Hong Kong, hop on the East Rail suburban rail line to Hung Hom (43 minutes, costs $31.8). Total travel time from Shenzhen airport to Hong Kong is thus under two hours and the price $39.8.
Alternatively, from the Elements shopping center above the Kowloon MTR station on the Tung Chung and the Airport Express line, there is a shop front waiting room where you can check-in and receive your boarding pass (although check in at this location is not available for China Southern Airlines passengers), and then board a bus direct to Shenzhen airport. This in-town check-in is completely separate from the in-town check-in provided for Hong Kong International Airport. Take the escalators up from the AE/MTR station to 1/F of the Elements Mall, turn right, and then it is opposite Starbucks. The bus uses the new western passage immigration facilities where both Hong Kong SAR and Chinese immigration formalities are completed under one roof. The cost of the service is $100 and the bus is advertised to take 75 minutes, but is more like 100 minutes in reality. Buses currently run every half an hour from 6:30AM to 7PM at Hong Kong side, and from 10AM to 9PM at Shenzhen side.
Macau International Airport
Because of higher fees at Hong Kong International Airport, it is often cheaper to fly out of Macau International Airport (IATA: MFM). Air Asia has set up a hub at Macau and flies to destinations such as Beijing and Bangkok among others. Macau International Airport is easily reached by ferry from Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Hong Kong International Airport. With the Express Link service, you can even transfer directly from airport to ferry (or vice versa) without going through Macau immigration.
InfoSource: Wikitravel Under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.